Ni Ibarra Banaag

‘Wag kang kukurap,

dahil sa isang iglap,

bomba’y babagsak,

at ‘di mangingilag!

Ospital o iskwelahan,

palaruan o kabahayan,

lahat ng gumagalaw,

kahit sangol na tangan.

‘Wag nang manikluhod,

sa ganid at buktot!

‘di sapat manalangin,

upang pigilang lipulin.

Yaong mga pasimuno,

silang mga berdugo,

kilalang mang-uupat,

salapi lang ang hangad!

Kung sa lupang pangako,

ay bumabaha ng dugo,

huwad itong paraiso,

kundi isang henosidyo!

Kaya bawal kumurap,

hininga’y laging isalba,

upang huwag malasin,

na mundo ay lisanin.

Gawing ‘wag pumikit,

sa gitna ng hagupit,

sa halip ay pilitin,

bawiin ang sinungkit!

Sa dako ng madilim,

ng guho at panimdim,

mundo’y nagpupuyat,

mugto man ang ulirat!

Ang Gaza ay patunay,

barbarismo ay tunay,

lumalakad paatras,

ang lipunang naaagnas!

Marso 23, 2024

Filipina mom flees Gaza with 7 children, hopes to reunite with Palestinian husband

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Timesby Angel Tesorero

Marlene and her seven children successfully evacuated war-torn Gaza last November and are back in her home country. Like other evacuees, they were given $1,400 in cash aid by the Philippine government and were housed in a hotel for a couple of days upon arrival in her home country.

While safe from the rockets and bullets of the zionists, Marlene finds its hard to take care of her children aged  15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 5 and 3 years old alone. Her Palestinian husband Amjad is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an expat who wishes to bring the entire family to join him soonest.

Money running out

When the Philippine government’s temporary shelter to Gaza evacuees ended, Marlene was assisted by the Philippine-Palestine Friendship Association (PPFA) to look for accommodations elsewhere. They are renting a room in Cavite Province and the aid money they received is already running out.

“Worse, the children are still traumatized by the war,” added Marlene, noting, “Even the sound of the metallic electric fan brought my young sons to tears at night because it sounded like drones. My second child also wakes up in the middle of the night and cries. They are afraid of fireworks and the sound of airplanes.”

The children and their mom were living with Marlene’s in-laws in Deir Al Balah (a city in central Gaza Strip) when Israel escalated its attacks. Escaping heavy bombardment, they hurriedly left the house with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, mismatched slippers, and a bag containing their passports.

Emergency kit

“The bag was our emergency kit – I had prepared it a long time ago because, in the past two years, I have experienced four intermittent conflicts and airstrikes, and I was told by neighbors to put all our passports in one bag and run whenever we hear a warning siren,” she added.

No one died in the shelling, but Marlene was hit by a shrapnel near her abdomen. Marlene and the kids sought refuge in Rafah, southern Gaza, on October 15. The in-laws, aged 75 and 73, decided to stay behind.

The situation in Rafah was no different and after two weeks, they moved back to Deir Al Balah, only to experience another airstrike. Marlene and the kids were again lucky and escaped alive. They then moved back to Rafah until the border with Egypt was opened and the first batch of refugees were evacuated.

Marlene and her seven children arrived in the Philippines on November 10 last year. Her in-laws decided to remain in Deir Al Balah because even the 20-km journey to Rafah was too much for them.

Marlene shared: “My in-laws said they were ready to face any fate that befell them. When our house was bombed for the third time, my 73-year-old mother-in-law just lay down on the floor in fear. She could not run, her body was trembling. She laid down and prayed. Thankfully, my father-in-law arrived and dragged her safely out of the house. The five-floor building was leveled to the ground with only one room remaining, where the two of them are now staying.”

Schooling disrupted

The schooling of the six younger children was entirely disrupted by the punitive war, that has so far claimed more than 22,000 lives and displaced 90 per cent of the Palestinian population.

Marlene and Amjad’s children, except the eldest, were born in the UAE, and have studied in Ajman’s Al Hikmah School (except for the 5-year-old and 3-year-old, who have yet to enter school). The family lived in Sharjah until 2020, when they visited Gaza and got stranded there because of the pandemic. Their UAE residence visas lapsed and only Amjad was able to return after finding work in the country in 2021. Since the kids can only speak Arabic and English, they cannot attend a Philippine school.

However, it was not all bad news for Marlene. Her eldest daughter, who is a very bright student, bagged a scholarship at a university in Switzerland, where she will continue her senior high school education until college.

Return to homeland

“But living in Gaza turned out good for my family, because it was there that my children truly found a home,” Marlene said poignantly, adding: “They felt they belonged, they were happy living with their cousins, they went to school and made new friends. They were happy. Until the war happened.”

Amjad is now working on bringing his entire family to the UAE. He said he sought assistance from charity organizations and school authorities to help send his children to school.

He is also praying that one day the family will be able to return to their homeland. #

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This report was original to the Khaleej Times where the author is a senior deputy editor.

WATCH: Calls for Gaza ceasefire ring out in Dubai as 2,000 protesters march on COP28 grounds

From the UAE to Uganda, more than 300 cities are standing up for Palestine, the activists say

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (UAE)–About 2,000 climate activists attending the ongoing COP28 in Dubai have joined the global action on Saturday — demanding climate justice and protection of human rights.

Carrying a huge black banner emblazoned with “Ceasefire Now” in bold letters, written in English and Arabic, the protesters shouted their call while marching around the UN-controlled Blue Zone.

“We are coming together to march for climate justice to show solidarity with the people of Palestine and demand ceasefire now,” speakers at the protest said.

From the UAE to Uganda, more than 300 cities are standing up for Palestine for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, COP28 Coalition, an alliance of more than 350 climate civil society organisations from 75 countries, told Khaleej Times.

Here’s a video:

“It is up to the peoples of the world to call not only for a ceasefire but for the end of decades of settler colonialism and apartheid. The climate justice movement echoes the call being made by social movements everywhere,” the coalition added.

COP28 has two zones – first is the Blue Zone which is under the jurisdiction of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) while the climate summit is underway. It is open only to UN-accredited participants and it is where formal climate negotiations are taking place. The other one is Green Zone, which is open to the general public and is under the UAE.

Largest demonstration

The protest on Saturday, approved by the UNFCC, was the largest demonstration yet at the UN Climate Summit in Dubai which concludes on Tuesday. The number of demonstrators was tenfold than the previous sit-down rally held on December 3, which turned emotional as climate activists teared up when names of Palestinians who died in Israeli bombing were read out.

The organised march on Saturday that lasted for two hours was louder and more defiant. Numerous protesters wore keffiyehs, waved watermelon banners and carried placards that say ‘Land back; Stop the occupation; Right of return’ as loud chants of ‘Ceasefire now!’ ‘Hey, hey, ho, ho, the occupation has to go’ and ‘The people united will never be defeated’ reverberated around the UN-controlled Blue Zone at COP28.

Photo by Angel Tesorero

Photo by Angel Tesorero

There were also calls for immediate climate action and equitable financial support to communities highly impacted by climate change.

Speeches focused on the key demands for climate justice and outright end of violence in Gaza as Israel’s bombardment, according to Palestinian Health Ministry, has killed more than 17,000 people – with 70 per cent of them women and children, and also injured more than 46,000 individuals.

Storytelling, singing at the protest

Chants and agitations were constantly made but there were also storytelling, humming, and invocations conducted by Indigenous people who also came in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Protesters also sang a song for peace, which is also a “prayer for healing, justice and a cry for liberation.” Part of the lyrics say “May this body be a bridge for the healing of this land… teach us oh Great Mother to bring peace to this land.”

Global actions

Meanwhile, the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) shared with Khaleej Times pictures of protest actions simultaneously held across Asia, including cities and towns in the Philippines; Katmandu, Nepal; Manipur and several states in India; and various locations in Pakistan.

Philippines (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Philippines (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Manipur, India (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Manipur, India (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Pakistan (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Pakistan (Photo supplied by APMDD)

They said: “We are making it clear: Climate advocates stand for victims of genocide. We fight for the oppressed as we stand for the environment.”

The Global Day of Action for Climate Justice also condemned the US veto on Friday of the UAE-led UN resolution demanding immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The vote in the 15-member council was 13 in favour of the resolution while one (US) was against, while UK abstained. #

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This report is original to the Khaleej Times where the author is a senior deputy editor.

How children’s shoes at COP28 UAE are sending a strong message

Each pair of shoes, as per the climate activists, has a story to tell

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (UAE)–Several pairs of children’s shoes are being prominently displayed on the ground at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai. Civil society organizations have put them out as a form of silent protest with a clear message that says ‘No climate justice without human rights.’

One of the issues climate activists want to highlight at the UN Climate Summit is the fact that around 6,000 of the more than 15,000 people who died in Gaza, due to continuous Israeli bombings, were children.

“We wanted Palestinian children to be wearing those shoes, and yet they were killed,” Shirine Jurdi, from Lebanon’s Women’s Environment and Development Organisation, told Khaleej Times.

“The shoes displayed are not the actual ones worn by the Palestinian children”, she added, noting: “The actual ones would have been burned or mutilated, along with the bodies of the young victims.”

Photo: Neeraj Murali/Khaleej Times

Photo: Neeraj Murali/Khaleej Times

Each pair of shoes, in the point of view of the climate activists, has a story to tell. For Palestinian teenager Mohammed, they remind him of his cousin Hamza who died a couple of days after his parents were killed in an air strike on one of the highly-populated areas in southern Gaza.

“My cousin died of blood poisoning due to poor facilities. This happened after doctors were forced to operate on him without anaesthesia,” Mohammed said.

Salma from Kenya said she is also not only raising climate concerns at COP28. “We simply cannot talk about climate justice when people in Palestine, especially the children, are constantly in danger,” she underscored.

‘No to war’

Jennifer del Rosario-Malonzo, executive director at Ibon International, a service institution working with social movements and civil society organizations, noted “militarism, wars and occupation contribute immensely to global carbon emissions.”

“That is why climate justice is linked with the struggle for just peace and upholding of human rights. Developed countries are miserly in committing to climate action, but pour billions of dollars into wars and military aggression,” she continued.

Photo: Neeraj Murali/Khaleej Times

Photo: Neeraj Murali/Khaleej Times

Malonzo underscored: “As we confront big polluting governments and corporations here at COP28, we also raise critical issues that are deeply connected to our struggle for climate justice – such as the sharp contrast between the billions of dollars being poured by wealthy countries to fund Israel attacks on Gaza, against the pennies earmarked for reparations to front line communities and climate-related loss and damage. It shows how human rights and lives are sacrificed for profit and plunder.”

Another message the display of shoes wants to deliver is that children are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as extreme weather, unabated pollution, and emergence of novel deadly diseases.

Protect children

According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), “the climate crisis is not just changing the planet – it is changing children – and the world is not doing nearly enough to protect them.”

“Children have been either ignored or largely disregarded in the response to climate change. Only 2.4% of climate finance from key multilateral climate funds support projects incorporating child-responsive activities,” the UN body added.

Last year, 739 million children were exposed to high or extremely high water scarcity, while 436 million children lived in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability.

More than 40 million children are having their education disrupted every year because of disasters exacerbated by climate change. Child malnutrition is also worsening due to worsening agricultural production, exacerbated by rising temperatures.

Perspective of youth

The call by UNICEF is to put children at the center of the global environmental response. This is echoed by 16-year old Mariam Hassan Al-Ghafri, who is a member of the UAE Parliament for Children and chairperson of the Standing Committee for Environment and Sustainability in Parliament, and UNICEF Ambassador for COP28 for Adolescents.

When asked about the shoes on display at COP28, she told Khaleej Times: “It is sad and depressing. But now, at the UN Climate Summit, there is a golden opportunity for our decision makers to take action and change the course of our history.”

“But they must work hard together and take it seriously that when they negotiate for climate action, they must include the perspective of the youth. And only then we will be able to stop this climate disaster,” she underscored. #

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This report is original to the Khaleej Times where the author is deputy senior editor.

Statements on the killing of journalists in Gaza

ALTERMIDYA: On the Gaza information crisis

The worsening conflict in Palestine’s Gaza amid Israel’s unrelenting offensives indicates a humanitarian crisis of global concern.

Since October 7, military operations between Israel and Palestinian armed group Hamas have killed over thousands of Palestinians and injured many more in the Gaza Strip. Compounding the conflict is a total Israeli blockade of food, fuel, and other necessities to millions of people in the occupied territory in what is grounds for an international war crime.

Now, an information crisis threatens to further distort the conflict’s causes and consequences. Gaza is experiencing a near information blackout with internet and phone services cut. Israel is to blame for cutting the communications, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Independent journalists like members of the Altermidya Network urge the United Nations and other human rights bodies to immediately intervene by doing everything possible to restore access to communications in Gaza.

In the same vein, we express deep concern for our fellow media workers who are covering the ongoing conflict from the front lines.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 29 journalists were killed in such operations. Most of these were Palestinians, as well as three Israelis and one Lebanese. This is on top of dozens of journalists who are injured, detained, or reported missing. Addressing the information crisis necessitates that the safety of journalists is upheld and guaranteed.

We call on all involved parties to stop killing and targeting civilians, including media workers based in Gaza. By extension, entities within the UN such as the Special Rapporteur to immediately investigate such brazen killings and attacks in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1948.

Protecting the media would serve to aid them in their job to report and explain the decades-long Palestine occupation.

Tens of thousands have been killed, while millions have been displaced in this conflict rooted in colonial acts. Unfortunately, this historically drawn out narrative will be buried along with the bodies of innocent civilians, media included, if we all silently wait as this conflict continues. The time to act is now. Those in observance of the conflict must speak out, while those in power must do all to address the very roots of this systemic violence.

For the UN and all related rights entities, the urgency to restore communications in Gaza cannot be understated. # (October 30, 2023/Quezon City, Philippines)

AMARC Asia-Pacific Condemns the killing of media workers and civilians in Gaza

The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, AMARC (Asia-Pacific) strongly protests the ongoing indiscriminate killings of civilians and media workers in Gaza by US-backed Israeli forces. Records show that the period since 7th of October 2023 has been the deadliest period for media workers.

The genocide in Gaza is also one of the most terrible media crises in recent times. International sources estimate that approximately 48 journalists have lost their lives while reporting from Gaza. According to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 48 journalists and media workers have been confirmed dead including 43 Palestinian, 4 Israeli, and 1 Lebanese. According to sources, the deceased media workers include those representing media organizations as well as freelancers.

Since the 1940s, the political claims and cause of Palestinians has been subject to disinformation and distortion at the highest levels of international governance and law to justify violence in Gaza and West Bank. Since the recent Al-Aqsa Floods operation, there have been various kinds of moral obfuscations and disinformation on mainstream and social media platforms to justify genocide against the Palestinians. Free, independent, and critical-minded media organisations and journalists are one of the few factors that has helped mobilise large-scale protests against this genocide. It is no surprise that media workers are heavily under attack. Issuing this statement, Dr. Ramnath Bhat, President of AMARC Asia-Pacific has called the situation in Gaza as one of the gravest conditions for freedom of journalists and other media workers.

“Independent journalists reporting from the heart of the conflict in Gaza are the only source of any credible information that is received by the rest of the world. Targeting media workers is a clear sign of genocidal intent that does not wish to see itself exposed; creates an information blackout at the global level fostering disinformation; and finally lays the ground for further intensification of genocide”

AMARC Asia-Pacific deeply mourns the deceased media workers and condemns the mass killings going on in Gaza, specifically the blanket targeting of civilians. It calls upon all concerned, especially the Government of Israel and the US to immediately stop hostilities, affect a ceasefire and end the genocide.

Statement issued by the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, AMARC (Asia-Pacific), [email protected], November 22, 2023/Kathmandu, Nepal

Locsin hit for ‘death to Palestinian children’ tweet

Moros and migrants condemned Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James Teodoro Locsin Jr. for his post on X (formerly Twitter) saying Palestine children deserve to die.

Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) secretary general Amirah Lidasan said they condemn the ambassador and others who think like him that wish genocide on Muslims.

Locsin’s now unpublished first tweet.

Migrante International (MI) said Locsin’s statement is “deplorable and unacceptable” given the fact that so many Palestinian children are dying and have died in the past due to the Israeli occupation of their homeland.

In a now deleted post, Locsin justified the killing of Palestinian children as they might grow up as their “gullible” elders who let the group Hamas launch rockets at Israel.

“They are Muslims. They could stage mass suicide attacks against Hamas until the latter ran out of bullets,” the ambassador added in a rambling post.

Locsin later said he immediately deleted his “sarcastic response to a tweet after realizing it could be misconstrued and retweeted to incite.”

Locsin’s justification and explanation after unpublishing his first tweet.

“My apologies to those who did misconstrue my sentiments and did in fact get triggered,” Locsin, once the Philippines’ top diplomat as foreign affairs secretary under the Rodrigo Duterte government, said.

Locsin added he “obviously was not advocating for the literal death of anyone, but rather simply for the end of any ideology that condones terrorism in any way, share or form.”

A controversial Philippine figure for several decades, Locsin is also known for obscene gestures in public, using expletives in his tweets and social media posts, as well as contentious statements.

Worst form of discrimination’

But MCPA’s Lidasan said that Locsin displayed his ignorance and indifference to the decades-long Palestinian struggle by even thinking like he did.

Worse, Lidasan added, Locsin showed the worst form of discrimination against Muslims for wishing genocide against them.

“He perpetuates, incites violence and harm against Muslims with his position. He discriminates by generalizing Muslims as terrorists; he has no heart for the children and youth for wishing them dead,” Lidasan said.

MI said Locsin’s tweet contributes to the wholesale dehumanization and criminalization of the Palestinian people.

“If even children cannot be spared from violence, then the entire population must indeed be targeted,” MI in a statement Wednesday said.

The migrants group said Locsin should be barred from holding any more important government posts, a call supported by the MCPA.

Online petition

A campaign has indeed been started on online petition platform by a certain Rosette Marimon demanding Locsin’s removal as Philippine ambassador for “promoting hate and violence.”

“This individual continually broadcasts ideas of violence, racism, and Islamophobia – beliefs that are not only harmful but also divisive. His actions are in stark contrast to our shared values of peace, unity, and respect for all individuals regardless of their race or religion,” the petition reads.

The role he occupies should be one that promotes understanding among diverse groups rather than showing seeds of discord, it adds.

“We must demand his removal from office to ensure these harmful ideologies do not continue to spread unchecked. By doing so, we send a clear message that hate speech will not be tolerated from those in positions of power,” it adds further.

The petition is addressed to both the Office of the President and the Office of the Ombudsman, suggesting the filing of charges against Locsin.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it “completely disassociates itself” from the ambassador’s statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The Balangiga Massacre (Audio plug)

In his State of the Nation Address Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte demanded from the United States of America the return of the three Balangiga bells taken by the US 9th Infantry during the Filipino-American War in 1901.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells,” Duterte told the US. “They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” the president said, adding the US’ genocidal  war is a “painful memory” for the Filipino people.

The president’s remarks revived repeated petitions by Bayan Muna since 2007 for the Philippine government to demand the bells back from the United States of America.

Click the play icon above to play the clip.

This audio clip was part of a series of information plugs produced by Kodao Productions in time for US President George W. Bush’s visit to the Philippines in October 2003. #